Strata Living in Singapore

When living in strata-titled properties like apartments and condominiums, common facilities like lifts, gardens, car parks, sport and recreational facilities (for example, swimming pools, tennis courts, gyms and billiard rooms) are often provided for the enjoyment of residents. The estate is responsible for the management and maintenance of these shared facilities.

Anyone who wishes to know more about the law relating to the maintenance of property and the management of strata-titled property can look it up in the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA). To assist laypersons – purchasers and owners – in understanding the key provisions in the BMSMA a brief guide has been developed by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). This guide, whilst not exhaustive on every detail and provision in the BMSMA, equips owners with some basic information on living in strata properties as well as help facilitate better management of their estates.

A link to the guide to purchasers and owners can be downloaded here. For the convenience of residents an extract of the dos and don’ts section of the guide have been summarised below.

By-Laws on the Use and Enjoyment of Common Property

By-laws are rules that you have to obey to enjoy living with other residents in a community. There is a set of by-laws in the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA) that every management corporation (MC) is required to adopt. On top of these by-laws, MCs can make additional by-laws. However, such additional by-laws cannot come into conflict with the by-laws prescribed in the Building Maintenance (Strata Management) Regulations. The following are the by-laws provided for under the Regulations.

Compulsory by-laws

Noise

Residents are not to create any noise that disturbs other residents.

Parking of vehicles

Vehicles cannot be left or parked in the common property without the approval of the MC.

Obstruction of common property

Residents cannot stop or interfere with the lawful use of the common property by other residents.

Damage to lawn, trees, shrubs and other plants

Residents cannot damage any lawn, garden, trees, shrubs, plants or flowers on the common property. Without the permission of the MC, they are also not allowed to use any part of the common property as their own garden.

Alteration or damage to common property

If you wish to mark, paint, drive nails or screws to any structure that is part of the common property you can only do so with the permission of the MC. However, the MC cannot stop you from installing locks or other safety devices to prevent intruders or animals from entering your premises or harming people in your lot. But you have to ensure that such devices have to look the same as the rest of the building and you have to be responsible for its maintenance. If the installation or removal of these devices cause any damage to the common property, you are responsible for repairs.

Behaviour of owners and residents

You have to be adequately clothed when you are on the common property. You should also not use foul language that offend or embarrass your fellow residents.

Children playing on common property

Do ensure that children under your control do not damage the common property or create noise nuisance when they play on the common property.

Behaviour of visitors

Do ensure that your visitors do not disturb the peace of the estate.

Depositing rubbish and unwanted items on the common property

Without the permission of the MC, you should not deposit rubbish or unwanted items (such as discarded sofas) on the common property that are likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of others in the estate.

Drying of laundry

Without the permission of the MC, you should not hang your laundry anywhere other than designated areas, as to be seen from outside the building. Laundry hung on designated areas should only be there for a reasonable time.

Cleaning windows

Residents are required to keep clean all exterior surfaces of glass in openable windows and doors on the boundary of their lot that are not common property unless they are inaccessible or not safe to do so, or the MC agrees by resolution to keep it clean. The exterior surfaces of windows and doors that cannot be opened are to be cleaned by the MC.

Storage of flammable liquids

Flammable chemicals, liquids, gases and other hazardous materials should not be stored in the premises or the common property without the permission of the MC other than those needed for domestic use. However, this by-law does not authorise the usage and storage in a manner that is not allowed under any relevant written law.

Garbage disposal

For units that are provided with rubbish chutes, all refuse should be securely wrapped in plastic bags before being thrown down the chute. You should not throw large objects into the rubbish chute as these may block it. For units without rubbish chutes, refuse should be securely wrapped and placed inside a clean, dry and adequately covered rubbish bin located within the unit or other location designated by the MC. Do not put refuse into the rubbish bin of other residents (particularly your neighbour) without his permission. Rubbish bins should be placed at designated areas not earlier than one hour before the time of collection.

After collection, rubbish bins must be promptly returned to their proper places and any rubbish spill must be removed. Waste intended for recycling must be disposed according to recycling guidelines and the disposal of hazardous waste must comply with relevant written laws.

Keeping of animals

If you do keep pets, make sure that they do not annoy other residents in your estate.

Proper maintenance of lot

You are required to properly maintain your own unit, including all sanitary fittings, piping and apparatus, so as not to annoy other residents.

Proper use of lot

A unit cannot be used for any purpose (illegal or otherwise) that may adversely affect the reputation of the estate.

Change of use of lot

The MC must be notified of any change of the use of a lot. Such change must be approved by the relevant authority.

Prevention of fire and other hazards

You or your visitors should not do anything that affects fire safety or creates a hazard or danger to others. No article or object must be displayed or placed on or by any window, balcony or outside your unit in a manner that is likely to cause damage to property or injury to life.

Control on use of facilities

The MC may by special resolution determine the hours of operation and conditions such as those relating to the use of facilities on common property.

Provision of amenities and services

The MC may by special resolution provide amenities or services such as security services and garbage disposal to residents. Such resolution must also indicate the amount to be charged and the conditions to be agreed upon.

Making of additional by-laws

In addition to the compulsory by-laws, the MC can also make other by-laws. However, these by-laws must not go against the compulsory by-laws and have to be supported by a special resolution.

Breach of by-laws and remedy

The MC, owner or resident may apply to the court for an order to stop someone from disobeying the by-laws and to recover damages.

House rules

By-laws are rules that can only be adopted after the MC is formed. Before the formation of the MC, residents must obey the house rules which essentially are the same as the compulsory by-laws.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Owner/Subsidiary Proprietor

Contributions by subsidiary proprietors

A subsidiary proprietor (SP) is a purchaser to whom the developer has transferred ownership of a unit, as shown on the strata certificate of title. Each SP is required to pay a certain amount of contribution to help maintain and manage the common property of the development. This amount is levied by the management corporation (MC). If you don’t pay your contributions, the MC has a right to recover any unpaid contribution from you as a debt, or register it as a charge against the strata lot.

Maintenance of lots and exterior features

Exterior features are permanent fixtures that are part of the external façade of buildings. These include openable windows in your unit. It is your duty to maintain your lot, including external openable windows and pipes that are exclusively used by you. If you fail to maintain the exterior features of your lot and someone is injured or some property is damaged because of it, you can face severe penalties, including a fine and jail. In fact, you can face the same penalties even if no damage is done because the Act covers potential as well as actual damage.

Inter-floor leaks

If there is an inter-floor leak, you and your neighbour are required to jointly carry out an investigation to establish the cause of the leak and proceed with the repair works. You should also both resolve the cost of repair. In cases like this, it is presumed that the leak has originated from the upper floor unit unless the owner can prove otherwise. Therefore, the owner of the upper floor unit cannot claim that the leak has not originated from a defect in his unit. He has to jointly investigate the cause with his lower-floor neighbour and proceed with any repairs required.

Compliance with notices

You must comply with any notice served by a public authority in relation to the maintenance of your lot. If you fail to respond to such a notice, the MC may arrange to have the required works carried out and recover the costs incurred as a debt owed to the MC from you.

By-laws

The by-laws prescribed in the regulations and those made by the MC are for the purpose of controlling and managing the use or enjoyment of common property and the lot in a development. SPs and occupiers of strata lots are obliged to comply with these by-laws.

Improvements and additions to lots

If you intend to carry out works on your lot that may result in an increase in the total gross floor area of the entire development, you will need to apply to and obtain a 90% resolution from the MC. Examples of such works include roofing a private enclosed space and putting a slab over a void in a unit. Depending on the type of work done, you may also be required to obtain the consent of other approving authorities like the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Insurance by individual owners

Individual owners are free to take out other insurance on their units, for example, their liability arising from falling windows. Owners can also insure renovation works to their units by paying additional premium under the MC’s damage policy.